Bolo Sans Rival/ Le Gateau Sans Rival/ Sans Rival Cake (Cashew Meringue Cake With Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream) : Daring Bakers Challenge, November 2011

Call it by any name (Bolo, Gateau or Cake) you like, this is a dessert that is supposedly without a rival – Sans Rival!

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. Though the Gateau Sans Rival is of French origin, and it is a much loved cake not only in the Philippines but also here where I live in Goa. Here, the Bolo Sans Rival as it is known (Bolo is Portuguese for “cake”), is a traditional Christmas time favourite though I understand not too many people make it at home these days.

Bolo Sans Rival/ Le Gateau Sans Rival/ Sans Rival Cake (Cashew Meringue Cake With Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream) : Daring Bakers Challenge, November 2011

What’s a French cake doing in India, or Goa to be precise?

Goa used to be a Portuguese colony and considering that the Portuguese were here for over 400 years, its natural that they influenced the Goan Catholic cuisine to a very large extent. The Portuguese brought along a lot of their food/ ingredients on their voyages to Goa and when these were used up, they looked for locally available substitutes.

So if recipes required almonds or walnuts originally, these were replaced by cashewnuts which were available in plenty. So the French Gateau Sans Rival (an almond daquoise) became the Bolo Sans Rival (a cashewnut daquoise) in Goa.

It seems that the Goan Bolo Sans Rival recipe calls for almond extract, probably to provide a whiff of nostalgia by hinting at the almonds in the original version of this cake. I also understand that here, this cake is sandwiched with a simple buttercream, and not the French buttercream of the original.

It is especially interesting to note that both places, the Philippines and Goa, are rather warm and highly humid which is not exactly good news for meringue or buttercream. Yet this cake continues to be a festive tradition here.

Here is a detailed video explaining how to make a Sans Rival cake

Bolo Sans Rival/ Le Gateau Sans Rival/ Sans Rival Cake (Cashew Meringue Cake With Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream) : Daring Bakers Challenge, November 2011

Catherine, this month’s host also gave us the option of trying out an additional challenge recipe, another Filipino favourite called the Bibingka. I couldn’t make it before the DB deadline but I’m going to try it sometime soon. As coincidence would have it, Goa is famous for a dessert called Bebinca which is however more like the Indonesian Kek Lapis.

I made only the Bolo Sans Rival and since this cake has an Indian touch to it, I decided to make a cardamom and saffron buttercream. I made some very small changes to the given recipe. I halved the original recipe and added only a touch of cocoa to provide some colour contrast to my yellow buttercream.

Bolo Sans Rival/ Le Gateau Sans Rival/ Sans Rival Cake (Cashew Meringue Cake With Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream) : Daring Bakers Challenge, November 2011

Once I halved the recipe, I realised I didn’t have the right sized pans to bake my meringue in. So what I did was to spread out the cashewnut meringue as four 6” circles on parchment paper and bake them. I later realised I could have piped out the meringue into circles instead of spreading it out, for neater circles!

I also halved the buttercream recipe but found it wasn’t quite enough even though this cake requires very thin layers of it, so I had to make some more. So if you make a half recipe, you might just need a little more than the recipe of buttercream. Please note that both these recipes are for a 6” cake (half the original recipe).

Bolo Sans Rival (Cashew Meringue Cake With Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream)

(Adapted from Daring Bakers challenge recipe)

5 egg whites, room temp

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tbsp cocoa (optional and not traditional)

1 cup finely chopped and toasted cashewnuts

Method:

Note: You will need to make four layers, each 6” in diameter. You might need to bake in 2 batches. Be sure to use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans/ trays for each batch. If you have 6” pans use them. I didn’t so I used cookie sheets.

Cut out parchment circles (or squares) large enough to comfortably accommodate 6” meringue circles and which will sit properly on your baking sheets. On the underside, draw the outline of a 6” circle to guide when you are piping the meringue circles. Grease/ butter the side of the parchment pieces that you will pipe the meringue on. Keep them aside.

In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add the sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form. (about 7-10 minutes)

Bolo Sans Rival/ Le Gateau Sans Rival/ Sans Rival Cake (Cashew Meringue Cake With Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream) : Daring Bakers Challenge, November 2011

Fold in finely chopped nuts, without deflating the meringue. Divide the meringue into four equal parts. Use a bit of meringue to stick the parchment pieces to the baking sheets. Spread/ pipe each meringue portion on each sheet into a 6” circle. in pans, evenly to edges. If doing batches, use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

Bolo Sans Rival/ Le Gateau Sans Rival/ Sans Rival Cake (Cashew Meringue Cake With Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream) : Daring Bakers Challenge, November 2011

6\. Bake 160C (325F) for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.

My meringue circles were still a bit soft so I left them in the warm oven after I had switched it off, to crisp them. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. You have to be careful here, as the meringue can crack/ break sometimes. Keep aside or store in an airtight container, separating the layers with parchment paper till you are ready to assemble the cake.

Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream

(Adapted from the Daring Bakers challenge recipe)

3 egg yolks, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/8 cup water

1/4 to 1/2 tsp saffron threads

4 pods cardamom, powdered

140 gm unsalted butter, room temperature

Method 

In a largish bowl, beat the egg yolks at high speed until they double in volume and are a lemon yellow colour.

Put the sugar, water and saffron threads in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches one-thread stage (112C/235F).

With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl with the yolks in it, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters.

Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 minutes). Still on high speed, beat in the soft butter a tablespoon at a time. Add the powdered cardamom and beat till mikxed. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.

Assembling the Bolo Sans Rival:

Set one meringue circle on cake board/ plate with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue circle on top. Repeat with the other two layers and buttercream and finish by covering the top and sides with a thin layer of buttercream.

Decorate the sides of the cake with the coarsely chopped cashewnuts and refrigerate till serving time. The cake is easier to cut when it is cold. This cake keeps well in the freezer. If you freeze it, remember to move it to the refrigerator an hour before serving.

Verdict:

An interesting cake and was a hit with everyone who had a slice. The crunch of the crisp and nutty meringue with the soft, creamy buttercream was nice. My daughter’s response was “What’s not to like about meringue and buttercream?”, and that’s from someone who loves both! For me, it was a chance to try my hand a local traditional favourite and I’m glad I did. Did I feel it was “Sans Rival”? I don’t think so though it was pretty good, though many of my fellow bakers might not agree with me.

I found the cake easy to make since I’m comfortable with making both meringue and French buttercream. This cake also has the advantage of being a “make ahead” cake and so is a great dessert to serve to company.

Though the recipe says this serves six people, we found it so rich that it served 10!